Board leaders often lament the challenges they face in helping their board members reach good decisions in a timely way. And if the primary purpose of church boards is to make decisions to advance the mission, then the failure to make good decisions in a timely manner will limit mission achievement, not to mention the demoralizing impact this has on board members. If facilitating decision-making ranks high on the list of board chair responsibilities, then chairpersons have to think carefully about ways and means of fulfilling this part of their role.
Board decisions only take place in the context of board meetings. So it stands to reason that well-planned meetings should result in better decisions. Having said that, what can a church board chairperson do to ensure that every board meeting is well-planned? A good number of new church board chairs probably have never had to plan a board meeting. They may have participated in numerous board meetings and observed a chairperson in operation. However, they probably have not analyzed what the chairperson did to ensure that the board achieved good decisions in a timely manner.
What defines a “good decision” in the context of a church board? In my opinion I would suggest the following elements:
- A good decision advances the mission of the congregation in terms of the board’s priorities and key results;
- A good decision moves the board and the congregation into closer alignment with God’s purposes and values;
- A good decision enables the congregation’s resources to be aligned more effectively with the desired missional outcomes;
- A good decision contributes to the unity of the congregation;
- A good decision integrates the best of the past with the desired vision for the future;
- A good decision occurs when the board has access to information that enables a wise response to a critical issue;
- A good decision includes mechanisms to evaluate its success.
Planning meetings that produce this kind of decision becomes an important factor in board success. The church board chair will then give attention to key elements in designing the board’s agenda. A well-planned meeting will:
- enable and even require the board members to keep their focus on the congregation’s mission and the key outcomes necessary to advance that mission. Every element in the proposed agenda should clearly be linked with some element of the missional outcomes;
- enable the board’s memory regarding past actions relative to items on the agenda so that the board members can build upon past decisions and not “re-invent the wheel”;
- help the board to rehearse pertinent information in ways that help it to sort out the best response from good or mediocre responses;
- remind that board how important it is for them to reflect carefully in their decision-making because the unity of the congregation depends upon their leadership;
- enable them to be good stewards of the resources that God has provided for the congregation and its mission. Good decisions will use all the resources wisely and in ways that advance the missional priorities that the board has adopted;
- before the meeting ends the agenda should provide opportunity for the board members to evaluate the degree to which they have worked well together to advance the mission.
As the church board chair you fill a critical leadership role in enabling your board to make the best decisions. A critical element in your success will be the effort you put into planning good meetings.